Grateful Dead Live at Los Angeles Sports Arena on 1994-12-16
May 18, 2009
I've been waiting for a sbd of this show for years, 14 years to be exact. The only source that I've heard prior to this sbd is a crappy aud.
It was always a dream of mine to see a show w/ Branford. The first Dead tape I had was Without a Net and the Eyes w/ Branford played a big part in turning me on to the finer points of GD music. So imagine how stoked I was when I saw Branford come out and tune up w/ the boys! Unfortunately I had a big psychedelic blowout the night before and was a bit washed up at this show. I remember the deafening crowd response to Branfords solo in Minglewood, he about blew the roof off the old Sports Arena. In fact, everybody but the drummers get a solo in this Minglewood. This is THE version of Eternity, they explore the jazzier side of this Willie Dixon penned tune. Jerry and Branford trade solos during Dont Ease. WOW! Second set expectations were high after that. This first set is one for the old timers; with Cold Rain, Minglewood and Dont Ease dating back to their earliest days as a band. Too bad the first set isnt here except in aud form.
Second set opened w/ my dream Eyes, unfortunately security in the Sports Arena started doing thier best gestapo impressions, trying to clear the aisles and get everyone back in their seats. I ended up spending half of a sweet Eyes out in the hall looking for a cool place to dance. You cant help but compare this Eyes to the gold standard 3-29-90. While I admit the '90 Nassau is the essential, that doesnt take away from the swing in this 94 reading. It bounces along in a nice 74 rhythm, with Jerry and Branford trading runs. Jerry takes the reins a couple times but still leaves Branford plenty of room to blow. For what its worth, this is the best Samba, Branford has fun w/ the jam, and Jerry busts out some jazzy riffs. This Estimated is among the best versions around. The jam goes waaaaay out there, to infinity and beyond. It gets a little scary there for a minute they get so far out there. Then a sweet He's Gone rises from the ashes of the meltdown and brings us back to earth. Dreamy little jam after the harmonies. Mamas little baby loves shortnin, shortnin maybe? Jerry stays out for the begining of drums. Space into so so Other One, Branford mostly sits this one out. Wharf Rat is soaring, despite some minor vocal miscues(this is 94 after all), really a powerhouse version with Branford contributing nicely. Good Lovin is a bit of a mess, nobody seems to know where to solo so they just kind of vamp aimlessly for a few minutes, the boys were running out of gas. LSD is atrocious.
Like most of 94 Jerry is a bit off at points during this show and unfortunatley that detracts from the power of what could have been a truly epic show ala 3-29-90. Vinces vocals are also a bit high in the mix for my tastes.
This sbd is a major upgrade to the aud that Ive had over the years, thanks to those responsible. Its nice to hear the subtle nuances in this complex show. In the overall scheme of Branford shows I rank them- 9-10-91,3-29-90, big step down, 12-16-94, 12-31-90, 12-10-93. In response to the previous reviewer, the 12-31-90 show doesnt have anything that holds a candle to this Estimated IMO.
5 stars for perfect sbd, 3.5 for show(this is 94), 5 stars for Estimated>JAM!
May 1, 2009
best estimated of the year!
Okay, as sad as some moments were in '94, and as much as this doesn't come close to Branford's sit-ins with the band in 1990, there are some great moments in this show that make up for it.
Branford, first of all, knows instinctively how to play a solo through the cheesy changes to Samba in the Rain, thus elevating the song to the listenable. I always felt that if Jerry had taken the time to learn the song better he could have spared us some excruciating versions of this number. Marsalis knows exactly where we are with it---smooth jazz territory---and he has a lot of fun with it, thereby making it possible, for those of us still in the room, to have fun with it too.
The Estimated jam seems to wake up the sleepy Garcia and he has some fine moments in it---he even sounds like he's in charge sometimes, getting off some lightning runs that suggest the Jer of old. It's a pity he's not as present for the disappointing Eyes (Branford doesn't try to get a solo in while Garcia mostly takes it easy) but even the Eyes has far more prowess than the one I saw at Autzen Stadium that summer (my last Eyes---fortunately, in light of most of the ones played in '95.).
The He's Gone that follows is exquisite.
I am delighted that a board is now available of this set on this site. I tend to feel that this is far more successful than the '93 Branford show which has to be the most disappointing of the four, given the setlist. There is nothing that really compares to the Esto>He's Gone here.
I disagree with a previous poster, in that the New Year's '90 appearance is fabulous in every respect. The Dark Star is not as exciting as Nassau '90 but it's just fine. The first appearance will always have the advantage of being "love at first sight". You can't beat the excitement of the band when they realized that it was a match made in heaven.
I also love the MLG '91 show where they chose brilliantly the songs for that night.
I think Rhino would do well to put out a Best of Branford box set. And include this Estimated as well as the one they played in March 1990!
My four star rating should be taken in context with the year we're talking about and my excitment over the Estimated Jam that is worth the price of entry.
Sometimes that's all you need at a show---just that one moment.
April 10, 2009
A monster set
You have to admit of all the guests to sit in with the Dead, Branford was the one who could always be up for the challenge and create much memorable music. This set is no different. The Eyes is typical of this year, very rhythmic with a wonderul flow with Phil and Jerry really playing some outstanding stuff. Branford is somewhat reserved but does add some nice color. The Samba is where Branford really shines and adds his influence,and as noted below, it may be the best one ever. Jerry plays some soaring leads on this too and the entire bands extends this version.
Now we all know Branford loves playing Estimated and this version may be the best one he ever played with the band. It is passionate, intense, heavy, wild and long and ranks up with some of the best ever. The He'sGone that follows is majestic and beautiful, a crowning jewel. These two songs are the high point of the night and are required listening, 5 stars!!
Jerry stays on for drums which is very cool and enjoyable, I saw several shows on the fall tour where he did this also. The post space is also very good, the O1 is strong and a wonderful entrance by Phil and then the Wharf Rat has all contributing to an outstanding version, the end jam is really good. I enjoyed the Good Lovin and thought it was very well played. A joyous and appropiate end to a monster set.One for the faithful for sure.
Lucy is heartfelt and better than the majority of ones they played. Jerry only sang a few, or less, that had pefect lyrics and his flubs are minor on this one. The ending is very strong and the final chorus is sang with passion to end this wild ride. Let's hope the first set gets posted soon as the quality of this one is excellent.
October 27, 2008
Branford Marsalis' presence was further "inspiration (which) moves me(us) brightly"!
I need to apologize because for some strange reason this is appearing twice! Not my intention; this has happened to not only me before, but I first noticed it on someone else's review then, on one of mine so I reported it! First, let me say that I realize I wrote this in a rather convoluted way, but if you bare with me hopeful it will make sense.
I'm just speculating, when I imagine that it could be possible and thus not surprise me, if someone were to criticize this performance in such a way, (although I've never heard any mention as such), as to be partial to Marsalis' New York appearances. I was lucky enough to have seen all of his guest appearances on the West Coast. Now I've heard and seen the recordings in the cases of the Madison Square Garden and Nassau shows, (with Branford) quite a few times. So, I believe I can say objectively even though I wasn't there for those, (I almost never review shows that I didn't actually attend, Hint, Hint)!
[If this next section doesn't make sense, don't worry about it. I hesitated to make the following analogy, since it requires so much subjective explanation. Believe it or not, I omitted some facts that lead me to this analogy in the first place.] Namely, even though they didn't play "Dark Star" here in L.A. at this show the fol owing is still relevant that is; I remember perceiving at that New Year's show, despite Branford's presence, the "Dark Star" as the weakest of the five "Dark Star"'s I've seen! Mostly because it was short and because of Jerry's illness of some sort at the time! However, I did see on a website similar to this, (which shall be remain nameless, partially because for reasons unknown, that critique, or set of critiques, has long since been removed), contradicting my assessment of the level of that "Dark Star". Coming from someone possessing what I "normally", or should I say otherwise, would consider an "expert opinion", (since apparently, this fellow had studied in detail, virtually every known recording of "Dark Star" and "The Other One", a scholarship to which, by the way, I don't claim membership)!
In so reasoning, probably I suspect in a similar way, (but never clarified as to how or why), as I do below, in referencing the same felling about "Eternity" here at this L.A. show ie. they really went "outside". I figure that must be kind of like, (since I just re-listened to the following the other day), the "Dark Star" they played in Miami in '89, (which I didn't attend), where although they really went "outside" (meaning, see below), Jerry sang very poorly. I say all this, because even though I have heard this and do remember the show as probably the best with Branford, (at least that I saw with him), I haven't heard it that many times; certainly not as many times as I have the New York shows, nor as recently even though I was there for this one!
Therefore, since I would like to remain credible given that, not only have I seen some bad or mediocre reviews recently, of what I remember to have enjoyed, (although my enjoyment was primarily bolstered by some rarity or new tune etc. in a given case), hence, just because this had Branford included doesn't guarantee it's high rating. ie. I'm trying to remain objective here, since far too many times have I found people raving how good a show was when I was quite certain of its' mediocrity.
Yet, in light of the fact that in general, (which I believe has more to do with my increasing lack of the wherewithal to obtain a recording shortly after a given show), as well as the frequency of how generic many of the shows were becoming, before the introduction of all, and I mean "all", of the then latest, and now obviously, the "last" set of new tunes). Thus this results in my certainty regarding a given show's level of intensity; being much greater in reference to early or midway, rather than of the later ones during the years I saw them perform, ('76 -'94). Thus tempering my confidence to the extent, that I should feel compelled to write all this.
Having at least once, wrote an over confident praise of a show, I hadn't heard in a very long time, due to the theft of my old recordings; and then later to realize I had exaggerated in reference to the performance, and in addition to besides that, the sound itself being disappointingly far worse than expected, ie. than what I had originally thought.
What I mean is, indeed Branford was inspiring for most all of us! But just because I was there and so was he, doesn't remove my hesitation to simply claim it's greatness without exception, thus potentially overstating the truth, as I did at least once before.
Nevertheless, I'm more confident in my memory of "Eternity" greatness as being particularly "outside", if you will! (An old jazz bebop expression, a term that gee, I haven't really used in a very long time ie. I don't say that lightly. Again, I guess Branford being a sax player, brings me back to saying that.)
So, rather than continue carrying on ad nauseam, with my efforts in conveying qualifications for my caution in applying adulation to reviewing this one, almost to the point of irrationally; perhaps it's more appropriate for me to reserve that for, (by not reviewing at all), the several shows I attended in this late era. For which, given that I had not soon there after, obtained a recording, and unlike this one, having a no direct clear cut legitimate reference, (ie. Branford as guest), with which to, despite the frequency and total, of my having listened to this one, being few and far between, mitigate that infrequent number of hearings, by Branford Marsalis' presence! But as I said to start with by implication in my title, probably and hopefully not, the only one; that thing with which mutually, I'm certain you'll are familiar with namely, that "inspiration moves me (us) brightly", (even though this doesn't have a Terrapin in it) and simply shut up, and give into saying : This is hot, get the download!